The next Belle in Australia's upcoming Beauty & The Beast stage production will be portrayed by a South Asian Australian woman. Shubshri Kandiah has been cast as the female lead in the show after also playing the lead in the most recent version of Cinderella in Australia — and it's a massive win for cultural representation.
Sharing the news in an Instagram post, the Indian Australian actor and singer wrote: "Adding another crown to the collection! I will be playing Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, opening at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney in June 2023. Very excited to share this with you".
Shubshri will grace the stage opposite Brendan Xavier who's appeared in several productions including Frozen: The Musical.
Needless to say, the news is a pretty big deal. So many of us can recall a time when we first watched or read these fairytale stories where Belle or Cinderella was blonde-haired and blue-eyed with a porcelain complexion. By seeing someone like Shubshri in this role, it reminds women of colour that we are just as beautiful, worthy of finding love and deserve to be the leading lady in our own lives.
When I recently spoke to Shubshri for Refinery29 Australia, she opened up about her initial fears in acting school of being typecast in certain roles because of her Indian heritage.
"For me, I think there was a big thing around when I was studying of 'What is your type?' and like, trying to play towards that," she said. "I think in my head, my type was brown. And of course, that's not right, that's not a type.
"But in my brain, I was limited to only doing those roles, because that's really all I saw. I didn't really see brown people doing roles that weren't specifically written for brown people. I think in my head, that was all I could do. I had really wonderful teachers that were like, 'No, you can do more than that,' but it's hard to believe when you can't see it."
Now, we're starting to see it more, and with people like Shubshri flying the flag in these epic roles, the increased representation and visibility allows us to finally feel seen and heard.